Monthly Archives: June 2010

Saying what we all think

One great thing about a newspaper column is I can criticize Barack Obama without jeopardizing my position and creating a spectacle of public humiliation. In this I do not resemble Lt.-Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

As in many other things, you may retort. Gen. McChrystal is a rock-hard warrior whose steely blue eyes drill right through you. Mine are the exact shade of brown that mystery- and action-story authors never allot to their heroes. When the general enters a room all heads swing toward him. When I do so the door swings. And when he was appointed commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the National Post reported that he only ate one meal a day “to avoid feeling sluggish”. I operate under no such restriction. But it is the first difference that matters here.

Much as I despise Barack Obama, he clearly had to relieve Gen. McChrystal for his idiotic words. But he had to do it properly. Once the general’s staff had openly derided “the wimps in the White House” the only way to contain the damage was for them not to live up to the characterization. And they couldn’t, for the obvious reason that it was accurate. Continue reading

A cancer on the political left

The reflexive hostility to Israel on the democratic left is becoming troubling. I think well-meaning progressives need to increase their vigilance in the name of decency.

Consider the ruckus caused by remarks in which NDP deputy leader Libby Davies appeared to denounce the very founding of Israel as illegitimate. Once her comments went viral, and her party commendably repudiated them, she wrote a letter saying “My reference to the year 1948 as the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory was a serious and completely inadvertent error.” But this explanation does not wash.

That her comments were serious I grant. But inadvertent? This was not some slip of the tongue like a right-winger shouting “Long live Communism” when they meant to say “Capitalism.” She knows 1948 was the founding of Israel, not a subsequent war in which it acquired “disputed” territory. And she had also broken with her party to endorse a boycott and sanctions against Israel. There is deep hostility here that, one fears, is uncontroversial among many of her associates. Continue reading

Save us from the technocrats

The other day I was asked to take part in an event benefitting the homeless. No, that’s not the punchline. It’s that I ended up getting rejected because I was unable to attend the mandatory technical training first.

Some readers may think my compassion needs work. But not, please, through the sorts of cybernetic techniques Robert McNamara applied in Vietnam. The result of such a technocratic approach is a form of insanity all the more chilling for being hyper-rational. Not merely in its manifestations, but in its foundations: a relentless determination to quantify everything, however inappropriate it might be.

Ironically, whatever compassion I might be feeling for anyone or anything was being simultaneously and dramatically impaired by another manifestation of this weird modern mindset. Did you know that it is government policy in this province that we not be able to see the lake from the deck?

I am not making this up, just fixing it up. You see, a building inspector recently came to check some changes to our cottage and, on his way by, condemned our existing deck as unsafe and required us to block the view. Continue reading